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Georgia may lower threshold for drunk boating

Lawmakers want same rules for waterways and highways

POSTED: February 28, 2011 11:44 p.m.

This summer, boaters may need to be a little more mindful if they plan to drink on Lake Lanier.
Georgia lawmakers are considering a bill that would make it illegal for people with a blood alcohol content over 0.08 to operate a boat or any other watercraft.

By lowering that level, House Bill 315 would make rules the same on water as on land.

“It makes it consistent with (driving under the influence) and changes the level from 0.1 to 0.08, which is the DUI level,” said Lauren Curry, public affairs coordinator with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. “Those two things have been inconsistent now for several years.”

Lt. Col. Jeff Weaver of the Department of Natural Resources said laws for boating under the influence have traditionally lagged behind.

“It was 0.12 to when I started my career,” Weaver said. “Federal guidelines forced driving under the influence down. Ours just never followed suit.”

Weaver said it would be much simpler for everyone if the bill becomes law.

“The simpler you can make rules and regulations, the fewer differences, the better for enforcement officers and the better for the public to understand,” Weaver said. “Of course our main goal was to get in line with DUI limits. It’s just to standardize.”
Currently, there are no other changes proposed in the bill.

“I think right now it’s in the very early stages of the legislative process,” Curry said. “Bills can go through many changes. But right now all this bill does is change that level.”

Rep. Doug Collins R-Gainesville, said it makes sense to standardize the legal alcohol limit.

“People don’t need to be boating and driving just like they don’t need to be drinking and driving,” Collins said.

Weaver said challenges on the water are different from those on the road.

“There’s no traffic lanes or traffic signals or directional devices out on the water way,” Weaver said. “You’ve got heat, noise, waves, things that divide your attention. You’ve got boats coming in all different directions, so you really have to be very observant.”

Boating under the influence is a misdemeanor crime that carries a punishment of up to a $1,000 fine or a year in jail. Between 2007 and 2010, there were 155 BUIs on Lake Lanier.



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